Home News Foreign Intervention in Haiti: A Brief History

Foreign Intervention in Haiti: A Brief History


Kenyan police are about to head to Haiti on a daunting mission: helping restore order in a country where killings and kidnappings are rampant, hundreds of thousands have fled their homes and it has been too dangerous to hold elections for years.

This is by no means the first time that international forces have come to Haiti in the name of maintaining law and order. Nor is it the second time. Or even the third time.

Over the past century, soldiers from around the world, including the United States, have been sent to and even invaded Haiti.

The United Nations has sent peacekeeping troops to Haiti at least six times in the past 30 years. International soldiers helped restore deposed presidents, helped remove them from power and helped train the Haitian National Police. But they also left a tragic legacy of sexual exploitation, civilian casualties and deadly disease.

Here are some of the international community’s interventions in Haiti.

Yes, more than once.

The United States invaded Haiti in 1915 after the assassination of Haitian President Jean-Villebrun Guillaume Sam and remained there for nearly 20 years, one of the longest occupations in U.S. history..

President Woodrow Wilson ordered the invasion in the name of preventing anarchy, but Even U.S. government historians admit The deployment was more about protecting American assets in the region and deterring a German attack.

German merchants dominated trade with Haiti and were considered at the time to be the United States’ main competitor in the Caribbean.

The Americans took control of Haiti’s central bank and created a labor force akin to slavery. The Americans used the forced labor of impoverished Haitians to oversee the construction of roads and hospitals. The U.S. installed a puppet president and rewrote the Haitian constitution, giving foreigners the right to own land.

As a Haitian-American writer Edwige Danticat said: “Call it gunboat diplomacy or banana war, but as Americans claim, this occupation was never about spreading democracy, especially considering that America’s own black citizens were not even able to enjoy certain democratic freedoms at the time.”

The United States also established a security force known as the Gendarmerie, which later evolved into the Haitian Army.

When strikes and riots broke out in Haiti, U.S. Marines opened fire on protesters, killing 12 Haitians. After the massacre, Wilson appointed a commission to study withdrawal from Haiti, and the occupation ended in 1934.

Sixty years later, Americans are back with a mission they call “Operation Preservation of Democracy.”

In 1994, three years after the Haitian president took office Jean Bertrand Aristide President Clinton ordered the dispatch of more than 20,000 troops to Haiti. The U.S. troops were cheered by Haitians who backed Aristide, who is popular in low-income communities. He was restored to power and served out his term.

In 2004, the United States, Canada, and France formed the Multinational Interim Force and deployed it to Haiti after Aristide, who was re-elected, was again forced to step down.

The United Nations has sent multiple missions to Haiti, each with its own hard-to-pronounce abbreviation.

The United Nations says its 1993 mission, the United Nations Mission in Haiti, helped create a climate conducive to the elections and assist in the formation, training and support of new police forces.

There are more tasks Several missions followed, but none as long-lasting and infamous as the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), which lasted from 2004 to 2017.

The U.N. Security Council authorized MINUSTAH to resolve the armed conflict that has spread to several Haitian cities after rebels succeeded in overthrowing Mr. Aristide’s second term as president and months after he went into exile.

The mission was to support the transitional government, establish a stable environment for holding elections and provide international assistance. The number of UN peacekeepers in Haiti once increased to 13,000.

The United Nations has praised the force for helping Haiti survive a series of natural disasters, including a devastating 2010 earthquake that killed 316,000 people, including 102 members of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, according to the Haitian government.

The United Nations also noted that its mission has led to a reduction in murders and political violence. The United Nations says 15,000 police officers have received training and kidnappings have dropped by 95%.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres wrote in a 2017 report: “Thirteen years after MINUSTAH’s arrival, political violence has declined significantly and the direct threat from armed groups stemming from social and political divisions has also Significantly reduced.” summary report.

But he acknowledged that cholera and sexual abuse by members of the U.N. force had cast a pall on the agency’s relationship with the Haitian people “aside from its many obvious achievements.”

At least 10,000 people have died from cholera, which was introduced into the country through poor sanitation conditions at UN camps for Nepalese soldiers. Despite an apology from the United Nations, the patients and families of the deceased were never compensated.

The United Nations pledged $400 million in aid to help victims and set up cholera treatment centers, but only 5% has been raised.

“It’s pretty shameful,” said Beatrice Lindstrom, a human rights lawyer who represented the victims in an unsuccessful lawsuit against the United Nations.

Soldiers sent into poor communities to root out gangs have also been accused of repeated violence that has killed civilians. In some operations, UN troops have used grenades and tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition.

“We do have reason to be very concerned about the circumstances of this Kenyan mission from a civilian casualties perspective,” Ms. Lindstrom said.

The United Nations is still grappling with the consequences of hundreds of children born and abandoned by soldiers in Haiti. Furthermore, in 2007, the United Nations Announce It has deported 108 Sri Lankan soldiers who sexually exploited minors.

When asked if the mission was successful, The United Nations said in a statement that the deployment “stabilized a country on the brink of collapse, deeply polarized, politically unstable, with a dysfunctional police force and almost non-existent state authority.”

The United Nations said U.N. support in vetting, recruiting and training Haitian police helped increase the force from 2,500 officers to more than 15,000.

“MINUSTAH creates space for political and democratic processes to take place, including the organization of electoral processes,” the statement said.

Still, experts worry that the troublesome legacy of past interventions will only repeat itself.

“None of these interventions are good for Haiti,” said Francois Pierre-Louis, chair of the political science department at Queens College and a former member of Aristide’s cabinet.

“I’m against intervention on principle,” he added. “You have to hold people accountable for their actions. Let them fail so they can own the process.”

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